SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgarian triple jumper Gabriela Petrova, runner-up at the 2015 European indoor championships in Prague, has denied any wrong-doing after testing positive for the banned substance meldonium.
“I have not violated, in any way, the anti-doping rules and I can move on with my head held high,” Petrova told a news conference at the Vasil Levski stadium on Monday.
“I stopped taking this medication in September. I haven’t touched it in 2016.”
Meldonium, which helps boost blood flow and increases the amount of oxygen taken in by the body, allowing athletes to recover faster while training, was added to the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list of banned substances on Jan. 1.
Since then, more than 100 athletes have been found to have used it.
Petrova, who also finished fourth at the world outdoor championships in Beijing last year, failed an out-of-competition drug test on Feb. 6.
The 23-year-old has joined a long list of athletes, including former world tennis number one Maria Sharapova of Russia, who have recorded positive tests for meldonium. [L5N16Z0IW]
“It has nothing to do with the Sharapova case,” Petrova said. “She said she took the medication in 2016 to treat a health problem.”
The Bulgarian pulled out of the world indoor championships in Portland, Oregon earlier this month.
“She was ready to win the world title but I decided it was better not to participate because we received the information about the positive test several days before the championship,” said coach Atanas Atanasov.
Petrova, named Bulgaria’s Athlete of the Year in December, is hoping she will avoid a suspension and be able to compete at the Rio Olympics in August.
“I believe the truth will be revealed,” she said. “It doesn’t sound logical for 150 athletes to have taken the banned substance in an Olympic year.”
The use of meldonium was widespread before the ban. One study showed 490 athletes at last year’s European Games in Baku had taken it.
Grindeks, the Latvian company that is the main supplier of the drug, says the substance could protect athletes from cell damage but is unlikely to improve their performance.
Editing by Tony Jimenez